Estate planning makes the probate process easier for surviving Maryland families. There is no question of what should happen to your loved one’s belongings when everything’s outlined in an estate planning document.
Without an estate plan, your loved one’s belongings automatically go to the next of kin. This is where the probate process gets tricky for many Maryland families.
What’s next of kin mean?
Next of kin is the legal term given to the deceased’s closest living relative. The person’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings could all be next of kin.
While all of these family members are technically surviving close relatives, they’re not all legally the deceased’s person’s next of kin. Next of kin is normally established as such:
- Your spouse is automatically considered your next of kin.
- If you’re not married, your children would be the next of kin.
- If you’re not married and don’t have children, your parents would be next of kin.
- If you’re not married, don’t have children, and your parents aren’t available/living, then your siblings are next of kin.
If your siblings aren’t alive either, it becomes difficult to determine what happens to your estate after that. Any extended family would be able to stake a claim as being next of kin – which could cause a fight in probate court.
Other things next of kin are responsible for
Without an estate plan, the next of kin also is automatically responsible for funeral arrangements and probate filing. Your next of kin might also be required to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and haven’t established a healthcare proxy.
If you have people outside of your family that should inherit your estate or be responsible for these decisions, estate planning becomes crucial. Without it, the court will only recognize familial or legal bonds when establishing who gets your estate.